Some people have a favorite style of fried chicken, be it Korean or Buffalo, Nashville hot or buttermilk-soaked. This seems sad — why limit the golden-brown goodness in life, be it sauced or not? I’ve eaten a lot of fried chicken lately for important research purposes and find myself happily ecumenical. (Now I also want to eat it every day — my blood feels thin! — but I’m going to try to just let this go away.) My overall new Seattle-area favorite won my heart/etc. by virtue of its sheer greatness and by being gluten-free — read that full review right over here. But there’s a lot to love about these other three new (or newish, as the pandemic destroyed the meaning of time) places as well. The fried chicken you end up prizing the most could surprise you.
Taku | 706 E. Pike St., Seattle; 206-829-9418; takuseattle.com | Fried chicken | $-$$ | 21+ only, summertime outdoor seating, takeout available
Chef Shota Nakajima of recent “Top Chef” fame opened his bar Taku approximately five minutes before the pandemic happened, so the fun of the street-stand décor, Japanese hip-hop and Key-lime-pie Jell-O shots seems all the sweeter now. But whether you’re hanging out or getting takeout, bird is the word: Big pieces of boneless thigh meat get a soy-ginger marinade, thickly dipped in a corn-starch-based batter, then twice fried, which means an extra-crispy crust seals troves of cooked batter into crevices, while the meat stays soft and lush. Nakajima calls it karaage-style, just (bonus) bigger.
Half a dozen flavors go from basic to spicy to teriyaki, with sizes from “Lil Snack” (under $5!) to the “F*ck It Bucket” ($35 for three pounds of chicken, one pound of fries!). Everyone seems to also order General Shota’s chicken, bathing in a sweet, allium-infused teriyaki sauce — his mom’s recipe — with broccolini for health reasons. Macaroni salad stands out as comfort-food extraordinaire, made with Kewpie mayo plus big chunks of red onion and ham, while a simple-seeming fried rice shines due to the clearly high quality of the main ingredient.
Cookie’s Country Chicken
Cookie’s Country Chicken | 1744 N.W. Market St., Seattle; 206-707-5956; cookiescountrychicken.com | Fried chicken | $-$$ | Summertime outdoor seating, takeout available
Chef Brian Chandler earned the honorific “Cookie” while feeding hungry crews on ships working oil rigs and military support out of Louisiana, and that involved getting fried-chicken Sundays exactly right. After first screwing it up, he sought recipes and advice from those aboard, refining his methodology until he reached a classic Southern American style: rich golden-brown, thickly craggy-crusted bird that, at his new Ballard spot, gets fried so hot, it turned the skin on a thigh into an almost liquid-gold layer of fatty goodness.
Welcome it into your arteries as you welcome shattery bits of crust into your lap! Chandler also does a 24-hour brine, including Trappey’s hot sauce, then a 24-hour marinade with 10 spices, which he prefers to leave unspecified; the dredge stays plain, just flour and salt. The spices harmonize at a low volume, with only the faintest heat of cayenne standing out. Bone-in, gigantic (and actually tender) tenders and nuggets are all at your pleasure, with in-a-bowl and on-a-bun options, too.
Chandler says his sides can be polarizing: potatoes whipped to a slurry, except for the odd chunk, with peppery housemade gravy; purposefully unfancy, gluey-style American-and-cheddar macaroni and cheese; collard greens that skew quite sweet. Cookie’s started with pop-ups and a food truck, then went brick-and-mortar during the pandemic — the space remains pretty bare-bones at the moment, as the priority has been the chicken. “We kind of want to just feed as many people as we possibly can,” Chandler says, so right now they’re keeping drinks to beer and wine, leaving a full bar for further down the line.
Yeon’s Chicken | 214 Central Way, Kirkland; 425-242-0333; no website | Fried chicken/Korean | $-$$ | Limited summertime outdoor seating, takeout available
Inside Yeon’s, it’s freshly painted and brightly lit, with six tables widely spaced and two flatscreens showing K-pop videos and basketball. More screens above the counter showcase full-color photos of all the offerings including a hefty, mildly spicy kimchi pancake; corn cheese, with the former quite sweet under a heavy, melted blanket of the latter; and lots more Korean comfort-food dishes.
But Kirkland’s most excited about the Korean fried chicken here, and most people order half-and-half original and “yangnyum.” Both come as wings and drumettes, with a good amount of greasiness. Original has that puffy, airy, thin crust that makes an audible crunch echo in your head as you bite, with a subtle, possibly slightly sweet flavor.
The gochujang-based sweet-and-spicy yangnyum, ordered with spiciness level two out of five (low, I know — it was at my guest’s request), proved to be both sticky-honeyed-sweet and instantly brow-sweat inducing, with visible bits of red chili. Five must be bonkers! Soju, beer and wine are available to help put out any spontaneous combustion. Owner Yeon Lee also runs a few more local places, all serving her KFC and more: The Third Place in Redmond, and Shin Sung Restaurant with its downstairs offshoot UnderGround Kitchen in Federal Way.